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DCMS proposes governing body for digital identities

20/07/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has proposed the creation of a governing body to oversee the use of digital identities in the economy.

Digital face breaking up

It has laid out the plan as part of a public consultation on the legislative and regulatory framework for digital identities, emphasising their potential to reduce online fraud and protect privacy.

The plan is based on a framework for digital identities and trust published in February.

The proposals cover the scope for independent providers to develop solutions that will work for public and private sectors, although the Government Digital Service is currently working on a project to develop a new digital identity service for government in anticipation of the Verify service being wound down.

The new body – which could be housed within an existing regulator – would have powers to issue an easily recognised trustmark to digital identity firms which certifies that people’s data will be handled in a safe and consistent way. It will work with organisations to take proactive action to prevent and enable the detection of fraud and security incidents, as well as encouraging inclusion.

Trusted datasets

The consultation also suggests new powers for digital identities to be built on a greater range of trusted datasets, such as those managed by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency or the General Register Office which is responsible for birth certificates. This would come with allowing digital identity businesses to ask public authorities to confirm whether a piece of information, such as someone’s age or address, is valid and matches their records.

It also proposes to establish in law that digital identities and attributes can be as valid as physical forms of identification or traditional identity documents.

DCMS said that to ensure digital identity products are available to as many people as possible, businesses will be required to report annually to the governing body on which users are excluded from using their services and outline what is being done to mitigate this.

Equally, digital identity use will not be mandatory and people will retain the option to use available paper documentation.

Wide availability

In a statement to Parliament, Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: “DCMS said that to ensure digital identity products are available to as many people as possible, businesses will be required to report annually to the governing body on which users are excluded from using their services and outline what is being done to mitigate this.

“Equally, digital identity use will not be mandatory and people will retain the option to use available paper documentation.”

In a public statement, he added: “The plans laid out today will ensure people can trust the app in their pocket as much as their passport when proving their identity.

“Digital identities offer a huge opportunity to make checks easier, quicker and more secure, and help people who do not have traditional forms of ID to prove who they are.

“This technology is a vital building block for the economy of the future, and we’re ensuring that people who choose to use it can have confidence their data will be handled safely.”

The consultation is open until 13 September.

Image from iStock, Maxim Tkachenko

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